Tag: <span>Knowledge Centre</span>

I’m procrastinating.

I’ve reached a certain point in the work I’m doing that requires the completion of a very large planning spreadsheet. I’m currently looking at all of our content with a view to restructuring it to fit better with the way our customers work hopefully making it easier for people to browse the content.

I’m taking an organic approach for this first pass. Taking the chapters in each current guide and rather than forcing them into a pre-existing structure, I’m making an educated guess as to where they might live in the future. Once that is complete I’ll take the list of suggested locations, give them a quick sanity check and mockup some examples and take them to some of our customers.

This is all part of a move away from monolithic PDFs, towards a more focussed set of content that is available online. However, whilst we are concentrating the bulk of our thoughts and efforts on our HTML based “Knowledge Centre”, the need for PDFs remains and hopefully the new structure will help keep the set of published PDFs much leaner by splitting out only the information that people need to be published in that format.

At present it’s definitely one of those jobs that ‘just needs done’. It’s not hugely challenging, nor particularly enjoyable but such is life. The end goal will, hopefully, just the means and all that.

It’s still got a way to go before it best my ‘most boring job’ though. That one involved reformatting hundreds of single pages of content, all held in separate Word documents as part of a migration process from one tool to another. It only took a month or so…

Work

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I’m currently in the midst of some thinking. I’m thinking about how we can improve what we do, how we measure those improvements and ultimately how we make a step change in the quality of our output.

Oh no, I used that word, didn’t I.

Quality.

At this point I will veer away from that word, for fear of plunging headlong into the land of metrics, and instead outline some of the things floating around in my head.

To improve the perceived quality of the information, there are some things we can do:

  • Improve the navigation
  • Improve the findability of the information
  • Improve the technical accuracy of the information
  • Improve the completeness of the information

Navigation and findability are linked and we have some ideas on how to tackle those through better indexing, better understanding of the structures, addition of signposts and all those good things.

Improving the completeness and technical accuracy can be a little trickier to nail down though. No product documentation is ever complete but by improving our approach to collating information and the questions we ask, we can take start to make improvements, those same questions should also help improve the technical accuracy, as will a beefed up review process.

With all of this in mind, we will be running some workshops early February to revisit the basics. We will cover off every aspect of how we work, and step through how we can improve the outputs of all our hard work (well, all the hard work the team do, I mostly try and keep out of the road thesedays, they seem to work better that way!).

I’ve been with my current company for four years and, for each of those years the team have managed to make significant improvements in a variety of areas. Year One, the first members were hired and we set about improving the quality of the content, Year Two we launched our developer website as a means to make it easier to access the content we were creating (that website is about to relaunch in it’s third iteration), Year Three we transitioned from FrameMaker to Author-it and publish our Knowledge Centre to the developer website, and this coming year… well, time will tell.

I’ve no idea what we will decide to do, what processes we will change or adopt, what new ideas and challenges we will set ourselves, but this part of the job is the one I enjoy the most. Everything is fresh, new and exciting.

Roll on 2011!

Work

I mentioned in my previous post that we run a webhelp build of our content (a.k.a. our Knowledge Centre) on our developer community website, and that it was hosted in an iframe. I thought it worthwhile fleshing out the detail of that as it includes a bit of custom code some others might find useful.

As our content is locked behind a login, we need to be sure that only people who are logged in can access it. This is achieved by a couple of simple checks.

1. When the Knowledge Centre is loaded, a script runs that checks it has been loaded within the correct iFrame within our website. If it’s not, the user is redirected to the login page.

The javascript for this is added to the webhelp.js file (around line 106):

//———– init function ————
Kbase.init = function() {

//OUR redirect
if(window.top.location==window.location) {
window.top.location = ‘URLTOYOURIFRAME’;
}

2. If the Knowledge Centre has been loaded in the correct iFrame (in other words the above javascript is happy), the website checks for a cookie (checking for login) and then either loads the Knowledge Centre, or, again, redirects the user to the login page. The javascript for this is standard cookie checking stuff (google will find you a zillion solutions).

And that’s it. Nothing particularly clever, but a useful way to (lightly) protect the content of our Knowledge Centre.

Work

Like many, I struggle at times with a common perception, one which was highlighted to me yesterday by a colleague.

Like most team leads/managers, I have a lot of tasks that aren’t purely focussed on the creation of information. I don’t do much technical writing, instead letting the guys in my team focus on that (they are better at it than me anyway) whilst I work around the edges of what they do, things like taking a document through a review with some SMEs and processing the output, or building a new output template, or proof reading some of their work.

My team and I have a good idea of what I do, even though I also get dragged into chats about other information related initiatives (document management systems being the latest). But as far as everyone else in the organisation goes, I am obviously not doing a good enough job communicating that out.

So my colleague was asking how my team were doing as we are approaching the last few weeks of this current release cycle. When I said that it was a bit tight and we were probably going to have to move some of the ‘could have’ information, he asked why and then asked what I was working on myself.

Thankfully, to answer his question I have a whiteboard directly behind me that holds all the ‘other’ stuff that technical writing teams need to think about; Product Glossary updates, creation of a Knowledge Centre, Release Notes and so on.

However the point here is that, whilst we all struggle to convey the importance of what we do (until people get to that “ahhhhh” point which most do eventually), it is in all our interests to evangelise our services. Yes this will only have direct impact within your current organisation but the ripple effect over the coming years will start to grow as people move on and take your messages with them.

It may mean that you, and your team, need to stand up in front of the whole company to ‘introduce’ themselves and what they do (same applies for lone writers!), as well as backing that up with updates and conversations with people you may not normally chat to, and I realise it’s probably not something that comes naturally to many people.

So to give you a kick start, as soon as I’ve finished it, I’ll be sharing a sanitised version of that very presentation. It’ll be focussed on a software company which is being re-introduced to that wee team they all know of, but don’t know much about. I hope it might be of some use.

Work